lime

Dutch Holiday

FullSizeRender (3)

Origin: Tiger Mama, Fenway
Take On: Daiquiri

Some folks like to take their minds off winter with a big mug of cocoa nestled warmly between their palms. I prefer a drink served in a coconut, and the kinds of palms that grow on trees.

Tiger Mama, a new tiki-inspired Southeast Asian restaurant in Fenway, has both of these things. Walking through the place, you occasionally have to duck beneath the lush, green tropical leaves that fan out from their pots like plants in a Honolulu hotel lobby. The lamps on the walls throw a red-orange glow over everything—I believe they have the dimmers turned to “Postcard Sunset.” And at Tiger Mama’s decorative tiki bar, separate from the larger bar at the entrance, they serve a coconut drink on a silver platter. But actually.

Something you will notice immediately when visiting Tiger Mama is that, here, presentation is on a monsoon scale. Last Wednesday I watched bartender Jay Miranda, also of Russell House Tavern in Harvard Square, turn out cocktails that might have doubled for centerpieces, some garnished with blushing flower petals, others with giant, spear-shaped pineapple leaves. I ordered the Dutch Holiday, a daiquiri variation on the smaller bar’s exclusive “Tiger Tikis” menu, which features such beachside classics as the absinthe-tinted Jet Pilot. Jay came over and laid down a thin, papery green placemat on the bartop in front of me. I asked him what it was. “Oh, that’s a banana leaf,” he answered. And why not?

Next came a gleaming silver bowl filled with crushed ice, upon which sat a coconut with its top lobbed off and a metal spoon-straw poking out. There was ice in the coconut—shaved ice, made from real coconut water that the prep cooks at Tiger Mama extract themselves. Between sips, you can use the spoon end of the straw to scoop the coconut ice out of the shell, sort of like eating gelato in the Caribbean.

The leap from the stem-glassed daiquiri of the 1930s to the still life painting that is the Dutch Holiday is, mildly speaking, astronomical. In terms of ingredients, the daiquiri’s plain sugar is replaced by syrup infused with lemongrass, kaffir and lime leaf to add a little brightness and spice. In lieu of light rum, the Dutch Holiday features a Dutch spirit and modern gin’s predecessor, genever, which like gin is juniper flavored, but not quite as dry or light.

“It’s a great clear spirit for winter,” says Jay. “It has this breadiness and malt to it. You feel that warmth in your chest as it goes down. And it gives more body to the classic daiquiri.”

Jay made me a straight genever daiquiri just to taste the difference. Whether he wanted to teach me something new about cocktails or was simply tired of watching me scrape the walls of the coconut like a prison escapee, it made me feel a little warmer, too.

.   .   .

Dutch Holiday
adapted from Tiger Mama

1 1/2 oz Bols Genever
3/4 oz kaffir, lime leaf and lemongrass-infused simple syrup
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
shaved coconut water ice

Prepare banana leaf and polished silver bowl, if you’re serious. Then add all ingredients to hollowed out coconut, and swizzle.

What the hell does swizzle mean, you ask? Learn about it here.

Follow Jay Miranda with On the Bar! Just click.

Advertisements

Donga Punch

FullSizeRender (1)

Take On: Tonga Punch
Origin: Audubon, Fenway

You can’t order a craft cocktail at a Red Sox game, and for good reason.

Of course, New England sports fans don’t need any added help getting obliterated by the time “Sweet Caroline” detonates midway through the eighth inning. But when you’ve got two-hundred sweaty Sox fans waiting in line for a twenty dollar cup of alcohol, you can’t spend forever muddling, measuring, shaking, and straining each drink without getting a Papi-signed baseball thrown straight at your head.

For the bartenders at Audubon, a sleek, modern cocktail bar and kitchen on Beacon Street just blocks away from Fenway Park, not only is this a reality—it’s a challenge as regular as fruit flies.

“During baseball season, if you put something on the menu with a ton of ingredients, you can’t expect people to wait,” says Taylor Knight, who presided over Audubon’s stone, smoke-grey bartop last Wednesday. “There’s no shortage of spirits for us to play around with here, but you’ve got sixty people out there who don’t expect a drink to take twenty minutes.”

Sports bars everywhere have strong-armed this problem with sour mix, Jack-and-Cokes, scorpion bowls, and of course, buckets of Bud Light (cocktails are for chicks anyway, bro). Audubon’s bartenders can hustle plenty, but they’ve found ways to preserve a quality cocktail program while they’re at it. Their most innovative solution is to batch classic highball cocktails like the Paloma, a tequila-grapefruit drink that’s adored in Mexico, and carbonate and bottle them, thus removing the step of topping each drink with soda.

One day Taylor was looking to create a tiki-style drink for Audubon’s summer menu using the house-made grapefruit syrup they carbonate for the Paloma. He thought of Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, the cocktail historian who helped revive the mid-century tiki craze that gifted us with the Zombie, the Mai Tai, the Jungle Bird, and other drinks best served in a pineapple. One of Berry’s greatest accomplishments was to decipher the closely guarded syrup recipes of Don the Beachcomber, the tiki guru whose 1930s Hollywood nightclub had stars like Greta Garbo and Charlie Chaplin buzzed on Daiquiris and Planters Punches.

In his book Potions of the Caribbean, Berry unearths “Don’s Mix” as a combination of fresh grapefruit juice, vanilla, allspice and cinnamon. Drawing inspiration from the two tiki legends, Taylor dreamed up a cocktail using the Paloma’s grapefruit syrup—which comes from both the juice and the peel—a house-made cinnamon syrup, lime juice, and a blend of rums.

“We never want to have eight Manhattan variations on the menu, even if they’re really good. We wanted something bigger and juicier,” says Taylor. “From there, it was just figuring out what rums to use.”

He ended up with two amber rums out of New England, Privateer and 8 Bells, and Old Monk, a darker rum from India that would bring out the vanilla notes included in Don’s Mix. The three rums are blended and put in a single bottle, which means you can order a serious, six-ingredient cocktail on game day without waiting six innings to have it made. Good thing—Taylor says it’s a pretty popular drink.

He named it the Donga Punch because, coincidentally, it ended up resembling a classic drink from another mid-century tiki master, Trader Vic. His was the Tonga Punch, and “Ton” rhymes with “Don,” or something like that. Truth be told, Taylor didn’t put much thought into it.

“When you name something quickly and it becomes popular, sometimes you really regret that name,” he says. “One day I realized Donga Punch kind of sounds like donkey punch.”

If you don’t already know what a donkey punch is, sorry—my research stops here.

. . .

Donga Punch
adapted from Audobon

1 1/2 oz rum blend (8 Bells, Privateer Amber, Old Monk)
1 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz grapefruit syrup **
1/2 oz cinnamon syrup ***

Add all ingredients to mixing glass, add ice and shake. Strain into lowball glass over fresh ice, and garnish with a little umbrella—it would make the beachbums proud.

** To make the grapefruit syrup, combine:

1500 gm sugar
600 gm fresh grapefruit juice
100 gm grapefruit peel
75 gm citric acid

Let it sit for a little less than a week, tasting occasionally. When it tastes ready, strain into a lidded container and refrigerate. It’s tiki time.

*** For the cinnamon syrup, combine:

25 gm cinnamon sticks
1 qt water
1 qt sugar (approx.)

Crack the cinnamon sticks and add to boiling water until they dissolve. Add sugar equal in amount to the final volume of the water and cinnamon, then stir until dissolved. Fall’s coming—why not put it in a cocktail?

Follow Taylor Knight on On the Bar! Click me.

Gin Cobbler #4

IMG_6490 Origin: Ames Street Deli, Kendall Square
Take On: Sherry Cobbler

Most people don’t have the brains to get into MIT. Most likely, neither do you. But anyone with twelve dollars to burn can take a crash course on cocktails at Ames Street Deli, a college cafe with a drinking problem in Kendall Square, just down the street from geeksville itself.

The inside of Ames Street is like an upscale study lounge, complete with stylish metal chairs, a Jackson Pollock-esque mural splattered on the wall, and a small, busy coffee bar that fills the room with the smell of espresso beans and chai lattes. When I visited last Monday, the actual bar, presided over by bar manager Sam Treadway, an award-winning Boston bartender and co-owner of Backbar in Somerville, wasn’t quite as crowded as the cafe. MIT was never much of a party school.

But the bar at Ames Street isn’t just there to party, either—it’s a bit of a nerd itself. The cocktail list is literally a matrix, with each drink appearing at the crosspoint of a specific flavor (there’s “refreshing,” “strong & smooth, “a wee bit sweet,” for example) and a base spirit, each of which is named in terms of its chemistry (rum is listed as “sugar,” cognac as “fruit,” gin as “juniper,” and so on). It’s a bar you can learn from, only where the lessons aren’t painful ones.

Today’s subject will be history—the history of the sherry cobbler, that is. It’s a classic cocktail that’s as rich and fruity as it sounds and just about as old as, well, the cocktail. Drinking in class has never been more respectable.

“The cobbler is classic to the eighteen-teens, and the sherry cobbler was the most popular,” says Sam, my professor, who may as well hold a PhD in all things cocktail. In Jerry Thomas’ legendary 1862 Bartender’s Guide, the recipe for the cobbler includes sherry, sugar, orange slices, one raspberry and one blackberry, shaken and served over a mound of crushed ice. Sam tells me that what made the cobbler so drinkable—literally—was the advent of the straw. Remember this was the 1800s, and dental care was lacking, to be generous. As Sam puts it, “With the cobbler, you could actually use ice in your drink and not hurt your shitty teeth.”

The Ames Street bartenders have been doing a series of variations on this forgiving refreshment, changing up the fruits depending on what they’re in the mood for, and also adding gin into the mix. Right now it’s the Gin Cobbler #4, a cocktail to please the toothless on their days at the beach.

“It’s Cape Cod season, and people want to drink vodka-cranberries. We’re basically taking that cranberry-lime flavor and adding it to the cobbler,” Sam says. “When I think of Cape Cod, I think of the sea—I think salty. Sherry adds that sort of savory element ”

The Gin Cobbler #4 isn’t the only drink in Boston this summer to bring a classic cocktail to the New England shore (OAK Long Bar is serving a blueberry vodka Moscow mule), but as a variation on the cobbler, it’s one of a kind. In keeping with the drink’s local personality, Ames Street uses a cranberry mixer from Frutations, a company out of Lynn, MA that strictly uses natural ingredients in its mixers and sodas. Sam held up the bottle last Monday to read the ingredients out loud. “Water. Sugar. Cranberries. That’s the way it should be.”

When he was creating the Gin Cobbler #4, Sam realized the cranberry and sherry alone made for a drink that was too tart and too dry—he didn’t want people actually drinking the sea. That’s when he reached for a bottle of Benedictine, an herbal and delicious Cognac-based liqueur whose recipe has remained closely guarded for centuries by French monks. “I wanted a sweetener that would smooth out the edges, and simple syrup just didn’t work,” says Sam. “Benedictine added this element of spice that I really liked.”

As part of the history lesson, Sam tells me the cobbler got its name in the early 1800s from crushed ice’s resemblance to cobblestones. To me, the great thing about cocktails served over a ton of crushed ice is that you can’t really see how much you’ve had; as the ice slowly melts and blends with the drink, it feels like it might never end. When sipping a Gin Cobbler #4 at the Ames Street bar, I’d call that wishful thinking.

. . . .

Gin Cobbler #4
adapted from Ames Street Deli
1 oz Beefeater gin
1 oz Lustau Amontillado sherry
1/2 oz Frutations cranberry mixer
1/2 oz Benedictine
1/4 oz fresh lime juice
Pinch of salt

Add all ingredients into steel julep cup, fill with crushed ice, and give a quick stir. Garnish with fresh lime wheel and serve. I recommend you cheers to your dentist.

Follow Sam Treadway on On the Bar! Click, click.

Snap Daiq

IMG_6486

Origin: Townsman, Downtown Boston
Take on: Daiquiri

“I never thought I’d want to drink English peas,” says Melissa Benson, a bartender at Townsman, chef Matt Jennings‘ new restaurant in downtown Boston. Melissa’s not talking about some green colored juice bar concoction—she’s talking about a green colored daiquiri.

The Snap Daiq is Townsman’s springtime interpretation of the classic daiquiri, which—contrary to the swim-up bars of the world—consists simply of light rum, lime and sugar. In Havana, Cuba around 1913, at the bar of the Hotel Plaza, the original daiquiri was served frigid and frost-colored, not frozen and pink. Townsman’s Snap Daiq is green—I mean, really green—but it’s also delicious. It can pull it off.

As Melissa was saying, when you drink the Snap Daiq, you’re drinking peas. But don’t think boba tea. The Snap Daiq is sweetened by English snap pea husks that have been reduced and made into a syrup, replacing the original daiquiri’s plain sugar. A little Green Chartreuse and touch of absinthe are used to tie in the botanical notes of the peas, and a dash of saline solution complements the sweetness. “It’s like adding salt to a cookie,” says Melissa.

If you don’t like the idea of putting snacks in your drinks, I get it. But isn’t a daiquiri just as refreshing as a crisp, cool pea on a sunny day? I think it’s time the two met.

“It’s a very aromatic, vegetal cocktail, and I love that it’s so refreshing,” Melissa says. “It’s so pretty, too.”

Townsman is quite a looker itself. It’s a bright, breezy and open space with huge windows and modern, steel dining chairs the color of fire engines. There’s a civilized, “let’s do lunch” downtown-ness to it, but the menu is anything but tame, boasting lamb crudo, a suckling pig ham and pâté Cuban sandwich, and deviled eggs with fried capers and crispy hen skin.

Townsman has only been open four months, but the bar program, run by Sean Frederick, formerly of Citizen Public House in Fenway, is already matching some of the best in the city, from its house blended bitters to its innovative, farm-to-cocktail recipes. Melissa says the Snap Daiq speaks to what the bar is all about.

“It’s really in keeping with the theme of Townsman, since we change the menu as often as we can to keep it in season,” she says. Unfortunately, that also means the Snap Daiq will be leaving the drink list soon. And so it goes—nothing green can stay.

. . .

Snap Daiq
adapted from Townsman

1 1/2 oz Privateer Silver rum
3/4 oz snap pea syrup
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/4 oz Green Chartreuse
2 dashes absinthe
2 dashes saline solution

Add all ingredients to mixing glass, add ice and shake vigorously (and I mean vigorously—it’s a daiquiri, so make it cold). Strain into chilled Irish coffee glass and garnish with mint leaf. Spring was in the air; now it’s in your drink.

Follow Melissa Benson on On the Bar! You won’t regret it. Just click here.

THE MAMACITA

IMG_6480

Origin: Toro, South End
Take On: Margarita

Believe it or not, the margarita wasn’t invented at a Tex-Mex restaurant. It was recorded as early as 1938 by Carlos “Danny” Herrera at his restaurant Rancho la Gloria, halfway between Tiujana and Rosarito. 77 years later I’m inside Toro, a well-beloved tapas spot on Washington Street in the South End, looking to write about a classic cocktail with an elegant, authentic Spanish twist. Then I noticed on the menu a margarita they pour a can of beer into. They speak Spanish in Mexico, right?

The Mamacita is Toro’s most popular cocktail. It’s a classic margarita—just tequila, triple sec, and fresh lime juice, plus a little agave nectar—served in a highball glass and topped with Tecate, like a Tom Collins on Cinco de Mayo.

The result is sweet, fizzy and totally refreshing, the kind of drink someone would deliver to your poolchair. When you’re sitting in the sun on Toro’s European-style patio, shaded by pretty pink flowers in little hanging pots, how could you say no?

“It’s been on the menu for forever,” says bartender Christopher Ratay. “For people who don’t drink cocktails, it feels like they’re drinking alcoholic soda. The beer just makes it super crushable.”

Crushable. I’ve been hearing that word a lot lately. Maybe it’s time we all slowed down a little, I thought to myself, sitting alone, two drinks deep, staring at the bull’s head that hangs on the wall at Toro. Then I had my first sip of a Mamacita. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Puerto Vallarta at eighteen, but the Mamacita tastes like all seven days dumped into a glass over ice. Somehow, incredibly, this is a good thing. A very good thing.

And is it crushable, you’re wondering? You betcha.

. . .

The Mamacita
adapted from Toro

1 oz Zapata white tequila
1 oz fresh lime juice
3/4 oz agave nectar
3/4 oz Luxardo triple sec
1 can of Tecate

Shake all ingredients (except beer) with ice, strain into highball glass over fresh ice, top with Tecate. Crushing is optional, but recommended.